Canada Act

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Canada Act

Canada Act, also called the Constitutional Act of 1982, which made Canada a fully sovereign state. The British Parliament approved it on Mar. 25, 1982, and Queen Elizabeth II proclaimed it on Apr. 17, 1982. When Quebec residents voted (May, 1980) in a referendum not to seek sovereignty, Prime Minister Trudeau moved to create an amended constitution. The final document, agreed upon in Nov., 1981, by the federal government and every province except Quebec, combines the British North America Act of 1867, subsequent amendments to that act by the British Parliament, and new material resulting from 18 months of intense negotiations between federal and provincial powers. It contains a Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees 34 rights including religious freedom, minority language education, and cultural tolerance. The Charter contains a clause which allows many rights to be overridden in federal or provinical legislatures by a "notwithstanding clause." Other parts of the Act recognize native treaty rights, increase the power provinces have over their natural resources, and provide an amendment formula, which requires approval of two-thirds (seven) of the provinces and 50% of the country's population. Quebec's attempts to oppose the Canada Act ended in Dec., 1982, when its claim to constitutional veto was rejected by the Supreme Court of Canada. Negotiations with Quebec continued with the Meech Lake Accord, which failed in 1990, and with subsequent federal initiatives.

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